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FIFA Confederations Cup

US vs Italy: Last Call for the Lost Generation?


They were supposed to be the group that brought the US to unforeseen heights in world football. The first group of players to graduate the Bradenton Academy joined with the young players who had done so impressively for the US at the 1999 World Youth Championship to usher in a generational change for the US National Team.

The generation led by Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride, Earnie Stewart, John O’Brien and Eddie Pope enjoyed wins over Brazil, Argentina and Germany in competitive tournament matches. As that generation gave way between 2002 and 2006 to the next generation, CONCACAF domination was solidified for the US but nothing else.

Since the torch was passed to a new generation of American footballers, more technically gifted and talented than before the US has recorded zero significant victories over world powers even in friendlies on home soil. The best result, a 0-0 draw versus Argentina in 2008 was saved by Tim Howard’s reflexes. Losses on home soil Brazil and England were also matched by losses in Europe to Germany, England and Spain. The US also drew Italy 1-1 in the 2006 World Cup but in that match relied on the backbone of the previous generation of players led by Claudio Reyna and a bloodied Brian McBride.

This generation considered the best ever in American football can place their stamp on the legacy of the national team this week in the Confederations Cup. The torch is about to be passed to the next group of players: Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu, Jose Torres, and the older Clint Dempsey who did not come up through the USSF system but did play for the U-20 team in 2003.

The leader of this current team when he is healthy appears to be Frankie Hejduk, even though Carlos Bocanegra wears the captain’s armband. The generation of supreme talent and unparalleled youth achievement has shown little leadership and little ability to even match the accomplishments of their predecessors.

With Jermaine Jones a strong personality and player of unmatched quality in the US pool potentially joining the US during the later stages of World Cup qualifying this week may be the last chance for this generation, to achieve a signature victory in a competitive match and move the US National Team forward.

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  1. Bayou

    June 15, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    Aren’t we pinning just a bit too much on this Jones kid? From what I’ve read and heard, the verdict is out on whether or not he can live up to the hype. And now he’s being heralded in the NY Times as the savior or American football? A guy who has never lived here and only decided to come here because he wasn’t going to make the German national team?

  2. Warren

    June 15, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Clint grew up in Nacogdoches, or as Texans call it, “Naconowhere.”

  3. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 15, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Fan, Dempsey is not part of thise premise because he did not come up through the USSF system and instead honed his game on the mean streets of Nagodscious TX (sp?)

    The point is so much was promised of this group and what we’ve seen is no leadership, no ability to adapt to tough circumstances on the road and ultimately no wins against top teams other than the perennial victory over mexico. But of course Mexico has beaten Brazil 6 times in the last 10 years so claiming we’ve surpassed them on the global football pecking order is too a naive statement.

    In 1999 we played to win at home versus Argentina and JMM scored that great late goal. Nine years later we played for a draw and even had fans and a commentator criticize Freddy Adu for putting a shot on goal late. HEAVEN FORBID, we try and win a game on home soil.

    We need to beat Italy or Brazil in this tournament and quite frankly we should be able to beat one of them if we’ve really progressed and this is the greatest generation or players we’ve produced. Based on US Soccer’s pronouncements of this group and the hype we should be able to beat an again Italy on a narrow pitch at altitude. Again if we win, then we’d have accomplished our goal of raising the level of US Soccer.

    My point is by the time 2010 rolls around inspite of our easy qualifying from CONCACAF (much like 2004-05 qualifying) we’ll be relying largely on Franke Hejduk for leadership and grit and younger players like Benny, Freddy, Torres and Altidore for the quality and flair. So where does that leave the generation that promised so much?

  4. Fan

    June 15, 2009 at 10:58 am

    “The Lost Generation?” They’re in their mid-20s for Christ’s sake. Besides, Clint is only a year younger than Landon so I don’t know how that makes him a generation behind. And how can their “last call” be some friendly tournament when they are in the middle of qualifying for a world cup? But keep on making these premises up and some day one of them will be true.

  5. Mitch

    June 15, 2009 at 10:55 am

    ANyone know of any good viewing spots in the downtown miami area?

  6. The Gaffer

    June 15, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Kartik, that’s the Bruce of 1980 Soccerball fame we chatted to during last night’s Miami FC game, fyi.

    The Gaffer

  7. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 15, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Thanks Bruce. The issue with the Italy game as a noted is that Reyna, McBride, etc still provided the leadership that day. No question thought that was Donovan’s best game at a high level. He shocked the World in 2002 but he couldn’t control the ball and play with the 90 minute confidence he did that day. Let’s hope for a repeat today from Landon!

  8. Roger Dunch

    June 14, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    So the big question is if they will be properly motivated knowing they are failures. Of course not because we keep building them up for beating Mexico when they cannot beat anyone else of note.

  9. Angry USA Fan

    June 14, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Good piece but this isn’t the last call because bradley keeps picking the same guys over and over again. They will be given every opportunity until they can no longer stand or a new system and attitude comes into the USSF.

  10. Cali Comet

    June 14, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    good piece, but i’m not the guy who said we could win tomorrow- you did. sense you’re already pulling back a bit.

  11. Bruce Gottesman

    June 14, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    “The best result, a 0-0 draw versus Argentina in 2008 was saved by Tim Howard’s reflexes” Not sure what the time frame is, but if you’re including 2006 for the new generation surely the Italy draw in Germany has to count…

  12. Tony

    June 14, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    This article has a great premise but is lacking the names we need see. Everyone knows you are talking about Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, Bobby Convey, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo, Taylor Twlleman and Conor Casey. That was the core of the 1999 U-17 and U-20 squads. You are right- they’ve basically been failures or not as good as advertised and unable to lead a team on their own. Besides wins over Mexico they lack any signature moments. But the piece good on premise needs names! I named them, why didn’t you?

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